Dignaga on the Interpretation of Signs
Buddhist philosophy in India in the early sixth century C. E. took an important tum away from the traditional methods of explaining and systematizing the teachings in Siitra literature that were attributed to the Buddha. The new direction in which several Indian Buddhist philosophers began to move was that of following reasoning to its natural conclusions, regardless whether the conclusions conflicted with traditional teachings. The central figure in this new movement was DiIinaga, a native of South India who found his way to the centre of Buddhist education at Nalanda, studied the treatises that were learned by the Buddhist intellectuals of his day, and eventually wrote works of his own that formed the core of a distinctly new school of Buddhist thought. Inasmuch as virtually every Indian philosopher after the sixth century had either to reject Dirinaga's methods or build upon the foundations provided by his investigations into logic, epistemology and language, his influence on the evolution of Indian philosophy was considerable, and indeed some familiarity with Dirinaga's arguments and conclusions is indispensable for anyone who wishes to understand the historical development of Indian thought. Moreover, since the approach to Buddhism that grew out of Dirinaga's meditations on language and the limits of knowledge dominated the minds of many of the scholars who took Buddhism to Tibet, some familiarity with Dirinaga is also essential to those who wish to understand the intellectual infrastructure of Tibetan Buddhist philosophy and practice.
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This is a very thorough and exacting explanation of Dignaga's theory of logic and language. It helps to have a fairly strong background in Western philosophical logic, since Hayes offers a very logical interpretation of Dignaga's works--especially those on logic (Hetucakranirnaya) as applied to his apoha theory of language (chapters 2 and 5 of Dignaga's original). Lacking expertise in Western logic, it was quite over my head, but helpful nonetheless. Having worked with Dignaga for some time now, I have come to appreciate Hayes's book more and more, because one reaches the point where drawing upon symbolic structures seems necessary to correctly illustrate Dignaga's ideas (or the complex relations that words alone fail to illustrate). Especially it helped me compare Dignaga's ideas as interpreted amongst different translators (for example, Hayes's translation of "sva-laksana" as "peculiar" rather than "particular," and "pratyaks[h]a" as "sensation" rather than "perception" (as with Hattori). Even though the sanskrit for the former literally means "specifically characterized phenomena," I found Hayes's variation on these kinds of terms helpful to better "match" them with Western concepts (See Roger Jackson). Too bad the book is like $300+, since it requires alot of time and attention to read carefully. Most importantly, Hayes's translation and commentary (last two chapters) are very clear and offer an invaluable resource for Buddhist scholars, and those interested in comparative philosophy, etc.
Anyone with the necessary background would undoubtedly appreciate it more than I was able to. Those lacking such a background might just skip to the translation, where Hayes's commentary is less technical, and exactly on point. (He directs you to the appropriate chapters where extra commentary is necessary...).